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Kashmir Turmoil: Demystifying few Myths which all Indians must know

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With the death toll rising daily in the Valley, it is no time to get involved in blame game. Deaths of both civilians and Security Forces (SF) personnel need condemnation by one and all. It is time to pacify passions but at the same time unhindered bashing of the SF and unequivocal criticism of the Indian nation by a section of the Kashmiris and their self-proclaimed sympathisers in the media cannot remain unchallenged.

Burhan Wani was a criminal with 20 cases pending against him in different police stations, he was a terrorist with a reward of 10 lakh on his head and he was killed in an encounter. There have been many terrorists killed in the past as well. He being a local boy, people thronged in thousands to attend his funeral. Instead of returning home the people turned violent and took law into their own hands. But who instigated the crowd to turn into a frenzied mob that resorted to arson, loot and attack on SF installations compelling the police and SF to open fire in self-defence resulting in deaths and injuries to those forming the hostile mob. The SF instead of being complimented for successfully preventing the situation from becoming worse are being blamed for using ‘excessive force’.

The SF personnel did their sacred duty of protecting the government assets and property using restraint despite grave provocations and threat to their own lives. I can vouch from personal experience that it is well – nigh impossible to distinguish between terrorists and innocent persons when both form part of the same mob. What option is left with them when the mob attacks the armoury and starts looting weapons and ammunition? It is unfair to castigate them for using ‘excessive force’.  The real culprits who need to be chided and punished are the instigators who were working at the behest of their ‘akas’ who were themselves sitting in the safety of their homes fully aware of consequences. While the SF are being blamed for using ‘excessive force’, which to my mind is incorrect, nobody is blaming the real culprits who knowingly instigated the crowd to challenge the authority of the state. The fact is that the instigators and their masters are responsible for these unfortunate deaths.

Another myth being spread is that the encounter was illegal and violated the instructions of the Supreme Court. The contention that a Magistrate should have accompanied the SF and be present during the encounter, also to make an appeal to the terrorists to surrender before killing them is ill-founded. There is a need to draw distinction between ‘Aid to Civil Authorities’ and counter-terrorist operations in a proxy-war environment as well as a ‘law and order’ situation and ‘public order’ situation. The learned readers would agree that it was a ‘public order’ situation and the operation was conducted according to the laid down Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Fearing a backlash Headquarters Northern Command had to issue a clarification,

“Questions are being raised in some quarters about Burhan Wani’s death. Three terrorists were killed. Three AK-47 rifles and over 300 rounds of ammunition were recovered. One policeman was injured. The operation was genuine, well-conceived and surgically executed with great precision and minimum collateral damage. At a time when calmness is the need of the hour, request all not to provide fuel to the rumour mills.”

Hope many cobwebbed minds would be clear now.

The Hurriyat chairman and a hard line separatist has written a letter to international leaders appealing for intervention in Kashmir. In his letter he has repeatedly referred to the Indian Army as “an occupational force”, one cannot expect anything better from such a rabid anti-national but the young Kashmiris need to know the truth. Indian Army entered Kashmir in October 1947 when it was being looted and plundered and its women folk being raped and tortured by the Pakistan Army backed tribesmen from North West Frontier Province and Waziristan.

The Indian Army landed in Kashmir on the invitation of the ruler of the state Maharaja Hari Singh Ji who after the attack by Pakistan acceded his state with India.  Sheikh Abdullah had also made desperate appeals to Pundit Nehru to despatch Indian Army before it was too late.  Indian Army gave a bloody nose to the Pakistan Army and forced it to withdraw from the occupied areas, but for the cease-fire that came into effect from 01 January 1949 the entire state would have been recaptured by the Indian Army. The Indian Army paid a very heavy price in the bargain in which 1500 valiant officers and soldiers made the supreme sacrifice. The ceasefire resulted into a temporary border between India and Pakistan referred to as ‘Ceasefire Line’ and divided the state in two parts. Pakistan was unable to digest this humiliation and made three more futile attempts to annex Kashmir from India and suffered defeat at the hand of the Indian Army with whole-hearted support from the local Kashmiris.

In 1988, Pakistan launched a proxy war in Kashmir codenamed Operation Topac and also supported militancy in the Valley. The militancy was converted into Pak sponsored proxy-war backed by jihadi terror. With active involvement of Pakistan and its instruments of state, i.e., the Army and ISI, Indian Army had to stand like a wall to save the integrity of our nation and fight the evil design of our inimical neighbour. Ever since, the induction of Indian Army in the Valley, it has been a saga of grit, determination, valour and sacrifice for the safety of the people of Kashmir. Another fact is that Pakistan is only interested in the land mass of Kashmir due to its obsession with providing strategic depth to its Punjab province and has no love lost for the Kashmiri people.  The Indian army has always been the first to come to their rescue be it to combat proxy war, earthquake or snow tsunami or floods. 22500 soldiers have been martyred in Jammu & Kashmir since 1947.  Will any sensible person still call it an ‘occupational force’?

Many ill-informed readers blame India for failing to conduct Plebiscite in accordance with the UN Resolutions, another myth that needs to be cleared. Firstly, the so-called UN resolutions were passed under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter and not Chapter 7. The resolutions passed under Chapter 6 are advisory in nature and not binding like the resolutions passed under Chapter 7. Notwithstanding that as per the resolutions before holding the plebiscite Pakistan was required to vacate all the occupied territories and withdraw its forces. Pakistan did not comply with the UN resolutions and hence the plebiscite could not be held. The fault clearly and squarely lies with Pakistan and not India.

The other myth is that all Kashmiris want ‘Azadi’. The chants of ‘Azadi’ are made only by a minuscule misguided radicalised youth residing in and around Srinagar under the glare of the media. The fact is that Pakistan through a well-planned conspiracy has succeeded in replacing the Sufi culture of Kashmir that teaches tolerance and co-existence with radical salafi Islam with liberal funding of petro-dollars from Saudi Arabia. Mushrooming of salafi mosques and madrasas on the Kashmiri landscape has changed the mind-set of certain section of Kashmiri youth whose mind has been poisoned by the venomous speeches of the separatist leaders and the cleric.

The video footages shown on certain TV channels or going viral on social media create an impression that the entire Kashmir is demanding ‘Azadi’. Nothing can be far from truth than this. The Kashmiris enjoy all fundamental rights enjoyed by other Indians and enjoy unlimited freedom as compared to their counterparts in POJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan. Kashmir is one of the three regions of the Jammu & Kashmir state. Kashmir itself is diverse both geographically as well as demographically.  The fact is that majority Kashmiris are progressive, forward-looking and ambitious. While they are proud to be Kashmiris they are equally proud to be Indians and wish to reap the benefits of India’s economic growth. The government of India has launched Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for the youth of J&K in which 5000 scholarships are given every year since 2012-13 for fully subsidised graduate courses in different institutions and universities across the country. A big boon for the Kashmiri youth who are drawing full benefit from this scheme. For them ‘Azadi’ has no meaning. The fact is that their brethren in POJK and Gilgit-Baltistan are yearning for ‘Azadi’ from the reign of terror unleashed by Pakistan.

Another myth that needs to be dispelled: Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) is a draconian law that gives unlimited powers to Army. The fact is otherwise. Army is trained, organised and equipped to fight external enemy. The Army is neither empowered nor organised to carry out law and order duties, the job mandated for the police. The Army is generally deployed when either the police fails or is unable to meet the challenge all by itself. Thus, when Army is deployed for such duties it needs certain powers that are enjoyed by police, AFSPA is that enabling Act which enables army to operate in such an environment. The Army is conscious that it should not be misused. In deference to the Supreme Court instructions issued in 1996, the Army Headquarters issued comprehensive ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ instructions for the troops operating under the umbrella of AFSPA. These have been included in all the SOPs issued by the formations to the fighting troops for strict compliance.  After all to err is human. The Army takes strict cognisance of any deliberate violation and the defaulters are punished. Thus, people need to understand that AFSPA is not draconian but a necessity for the Army to operate in Disturbed areas.

An attempt has been made in the preceding paras to clarify many ill-founded theories that are used to mislead the youth in Kashmir whereas the fact is either not known or deliberately hidden from the young minds. My earnest appeal to the alienated youth is to learn the facts and decide for themselves as to who  their true well-wishers are and who are exploiting them for their narrow self-centric ends.

(The author is a Retired Brigadier Anil Gupta Indian Army, Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted through A Nationalist – @Peacef_Warrior )


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